MSNBC says it’s the place to turn during big turns of events

MSNBC is airing a promo that bills itself as the No. 1 destination in cable news for when there’s a “major turn of events.”

As is typical with any promo with ratings-related claims, the network includes fine print that notes the claim is based on “Nielsen, based on total viewership during major breaking news events. Details available on request.”

NewscastStudio requested those details and NBC provided these figures via Nielsen:

  • Midterm election night, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2022: Win over CNN with live+SD, P2+ average audience, 8 to 11 p.m. eastern. Including presidential and midterm elections, this was MSNBC’s first win on an election night over CNN based on that criteria.
  • Senate control determined, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022: Top cable news outlet live+SD, P2+ average audience, 8 to 11 p.m. eastern
  • George runoff election, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022: MSNBC was the most-watched TV network when the race was called, Live+SD, P2+ average audience during 10 p.m. eastern hour only
  • Jan. 6 hearings, June to December 2022: MSNBC was first in live coverage and analysis (across the nine meetings), Live+SD, P2+ average audience during coverage aired in the 10 p.m. eastern hour)
  • Ukrainian President Zelensky’s address to Congress, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022: MSNBC was the top cable news outlet for live coverage of Pres. Zelensky’s address to Congress using Live+SD, P2+ and adults 25-54 average audience during address.
  • Jan. 6 Report release, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022: Most-watched cable network after the report was released; 4 out of 5 viewers turned to MSNBC instead of CNN that night (Live+SD, P2+ average audience, MSNBC was the top cable network in the 10 p.m. hour, 80% 2-net share vs. CNN)
  • House Speaker Vote, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023: On the day of the decisive 15th ballot, MSNBC averaged 31% more viewers than CNN and had its most-watched Friday in almost two years; it was also the most-watched week of “MSNBC Reports” programming in six months (Live+SD, P2+ average audience, total day 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., “MSNBC Reports” Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

The promo’s on-screen visuals include clips taken from recent coverage of each of these events, though some imagery was not directly linked to the coverage (for example, images of alleged insurrectionists were largely used to showcase the committee meetings).

“When there’s a major turn of events,” the first screen reads with bold blue text set on a light gray gradient background with subtle light accents in the corners. 

“And you need to understand the details,” is up next, followed by “more people turn to MSNBC” and “as their #1 destination in cable news.”

Interspersed are clips taken off network air that include anchors and contributors breaking down and analyzing the news, including some that include some higher-level vocabulary. 

The promo’s background includes a musical track with lyrics that sound like someone repeating the phrase “watch me” or something similar. 


Talent in the clips includes Lawrence O’Donnell, Rachel Maddow, Nicolle Wallace, Chris Hayes, Joy Reid, Steve Kornacki (at the big board), Alex Wagner, Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Willie Geist and Mike Barnacle

That collection represents most of the network’s personality-driven show lineup and special event anchors teams with the exception of Stephanie Ruhle and Ari Melber.

Ruhle, who normally anchors “The 11th Hour,” has been hosting mini-roundtable segments with a rotating group of analysts the network bills “The Insiders” during special political coverage.

The promo’s look eschews using the blue, yellow, white and black look that MSNBC largely uses throughout its rolling coverage (though most of the shows the personalities mentioned here host have distinct looks). 

Promos with ratings claims from any network should often be viewed with at least a bit of skepticism because it’s typically possible to hand-pick certain data to make the numbers demonstrate the most desirable results. 

MSNBC did, at least, appear to back up the on-screen visuals with numbers culled from the coverage they were mentioning.